By Phil Anastasia
Scott Zimmer will never forget the last game of his high school career.
But the Moorestown senior pitcher cherished the chance to make another memory.
"This is a great experience," Zimmer said after earning the victory in Burlington County's 7-5 triumph over Olympic Colonial in a clash of South Jersey franchises in the second round of the Carpenter Cup Classic baseball tournament on Monday afternoon at Richie Ashburn Field in FDR Park.
Zimmer (pictured) worked three inning and struck out five and Holy Cross players Collin Stringham and Joe Paolini provided the offensive highlights as Burlington County advanced to Thursday's semifinals at Citizens Bank Park.
"It's like a dream," said Paolini, a rising junior who hit the first home run of his high school career, a solo shot down the left-field line that gave Burlington County a 4-1 lead in the fourth inning.
Paolini rounded third and slapped hands with Burlington County third-base coach Steve Paolini, his father and coach at Holy Cross.
"That makes it twice as good," the younger Paolini said of sharing the moment with his father.
Burlington County, which has emerged in recent years as one of the more successful franchises in the annual tournament, needs two more victories to capture its third title since 2009.
"It's the coaching," Zimmer said. "The players change but the coaches are the same so it's got to be the coaching."
Burlington County had a hit in every inning and Stringham, Cinnaminson senior Christian DeLuca, Northern Burlington senior Zach Gakeler and Maple Shade senior Matt Lutz had two each.
"You would have a tough time throwing it by anybody in our lineup," Zimmer said.
Eastern senior Tom Flacco, Eastern junior Ryan Keen, Haddonfield junior Jake Thorndike and Collingswood junior Lucas Rollins delivered RBI hits for Olympic Colonial, which was trying to advance to the tournament semifinals for the first time since the Phillies opened Citizens Bank Park in 2004.
The tournament's all-time leader with five titles (all from 1989-1997), Olympic Colonial rallied to take 5-4 lead with three runs in the bottom of the sixth, sparked by Thorndike's RBI double to deep center.
But Burlington County answered with two runs in the top of the seventh as Stringham led off with a double and two walks, two wild pitches and an infield error turned the momentum in the visiting team's favor.
Burlington County added an insurance run in the eighth as Lutz, Stringham, Maple Shade junior Brennan Taylor strung together three consecutive two-out singles.
Zimmer was the losing pitcher in an epic game in the South Jersey Group 3 finals May 30. He went nine innings, struck out 21 and threw 178 pitches but took the 2-0 loss when Mainland, the eventual state champion, scored a pair of runs on wild pitches.
"That was really tough," Zimmer said. "I hate to lose and I felt like I let my team with a couple bad pitches."
Zimmer didn't pitch again until Monday. He said be didn't even have a catch until more than a week after the game, and only recently threw a couple short bullpen sessions.
"I can't come out of a game," Zimmer said of his high pitch count in the last game of his Moorestown career. "Coach (Bill Donoghue) was talking to me the whole game. It was my fault. I should have been more aware of my pitch count.
"I didn't want to come out. I felt fine. I felt fine the next day, a little sore maybe."
Zimmer allowed two hits and a run and walked three. But the Delaware recruit showed a live fastball with five strikeouts and he worked out of trouble despite a shaky defense that committed three of its five errors during his time on the mound.
"It was great to get back out on the mound and play with these elite guys," Zimmer said. "This was a great opportunity for me."
Burlington County 120 100 210 -- 7 13 5
Olympic Colonial 101 013 000 -- 5 8 3
WP: Scott Zimmer. LP: Nick DeRitus.
2B: BC-Christian DeLuca, Nick Corbi, Collin Stringham. OC-Jake Thorndike.
HR: BC-Joe Paolini.
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